About First HELP

First H.E.L.P. reduces mental health stigma for First Responders through education, advocating for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, acknowledging the service and sacrifice of First Responders lost to suicide, assisting officers in their search for healing, and bringing awareness to suicide and mental health issues.

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OUR PILLARS 

Honor– Honor the fallen and their families. Honor the sacrifices made and the lives lost. This includes Camp April, our cost-free children’s camp for the children and families of First Responder suicides as well as our Annual Honor Dinner where we bring the Widows/ Widowers of First Responders Suicides together to honor their heroes and memorialize their losses.

Educate– From the Officer/ Fire Fighter/ Medic/ Communications Officer in the field to the Chain of Command, to the families at home… Educate First Responders and their families as to the stressors of the job, and the effects of PTSI/ OSI incidents and give them the tools to navigate the unseen side of public service. We teach courses from the responder level up to the supervisor level, including Family Readiness and Provider Readiness programs as well as a Recruit Readiness program.

Lead– We represent First Responders at the state and Federal levels as we fight to ensure PTSI/ OSI struggles and mental health are acknowledged, the suicides among First Responders are held to the same standards as Line of Duty deaths, and that fair and accurate accountability is given to First Responders and their families.

Prevent– In line with our Education programs, we also have our Mission Ready Retreats… 6-7 Day cost-free programs designed for peer-to-peer mentorship, education, alternative stress relief, and camaraderie.  At the core of prevention is the collection of suicide data for all first responders which is published freely or continued awareness of mental health as it relates to our professionals 

Our History

Before Blue H.E.L.P was formed, the original idea for the organization was to include all first responder disciplines.  There was a gap in efforts to gather data, and honor those who had served their community honorably but had been denied respect because they died by suicide.  Ultimately the founders decided the undertaking was just too large as we all worked full time jobs, so we chose to start our focus on law enforcement.  Throughout the years we have had contact with professionals from every first responder discipline and their families asking if we would do the same for their fields.  Now we can answer…yes.

Meet the First H.E.L.P. Team

Steve Hough

Steve Hough

Chief Operating Officer

Steven is a 20-year veteran of Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. During his time with the Sheriff’s Office Steven also spent seven years assigned as a Task Force Officer for the US Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force based in Pensacola, FL. While serving a warrant with the task force Steven was shot numerous times, including once in the face. As a result of his actions, Steven was awarded the Congressional Badge of Bravery, United States Marshal’s Purple Heart, and the Medal of Valor from Santa Rosa County. Steven has since retired from the Okaloosa county Sheriff’s Office and is currently working as an inspector with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

Karen Solomon

Karen Solomon

Chief Financial Officer

Karen is the creator of www.1sthelp.net and the author of Hearts Beneath the Badge and The Price They Pay as well as many articles about law enforcement suicide. Her focus is the stories of the families who have lost an officer to suicide and the officers who suffer with the feeling that they have nowhere to turn. Karen was a member of the 2018 Officer Safety and Wellness Group Meeting, the co-Chair of the Data and Research Committee of the National Consortium on Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention and is currently on the FBI task force to implement the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act. Karen is also the wife of a police officer.

Joe Willis

Joe Willis

Chief Learning Officer

Joe is a retired US Army Military Police First Sergeant with over 20-years of law enforcement and military experience.  As the Chief Learning Officer at First H.E.L.P. he oversees Learning and Development and the organization’s Marketing efforts.  He is also a Training and Development Specialist for the US Navy and an Adjunct Instructor for Team One Network. Since his retirement in 2016 he also worked as a Training Specialist with the Center for Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE) and as the Director of Training and Business Development at Team One Network.  Prior to retiring from the Army Joe served as the Operations Sergeant Major for a Combined Arms Training Brigade, Senior Enlisted Advisor and Tactics Instructor for the Department of Military Science at West Point, the United States Military Academy (USMA) Equal Opportunity Program Manager, and First Sergeant for a Military Police Company. Other assignments include; Law Enforcement Operations Sergeant, Special Reaction Team Commander, and Investigator.

Sharonda Calderon

Sharonda Calderon

BLUE HELP - Family Division, Board Member

ShaRonda Young Calderon is the widow of Deputy Homero Calderon, an 18yr veteran with the Dallas County Sheriff Department, who died by suicide on June 29, 2018. She has a bachelor degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and currently pursuing advance studies in psychology. She and her husband started their career together in law enforcement with the Sheriff Dept in 2000. She currently works as a legal assistant for a small law firm in Dallas TX. ShaRonda has become an advocate for mental health and suicide awareness because she understands the difficulties living with and the stigma attached to it.

Robert E. Winner

Robert E. Winner

Director of Retreats, Board Member

Robert E. Winner retired from the United States Air Force in 2013 after a career in Security Forces (Military Police). In addition to multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan he also served as an Emergency Services Team Leader (SWAT) and Personal Security Detail Supervisor.

Rob has been a Law Enforcement educator/trainer within the Department of Defense, the National Tactical Officers Association and the Colorado Police Corps. He continues to participate in firearms/tactical/medical training around the country to hone his skills. After retiring from the Air Force Rob has done contracting work, both stateside and abroad, doing Executive Protection/ Private Security. More recently, Rob was a Peer Support Mentor and Board Member with a PTSI/ Anxiety/ Depression non-profit focused on Veterans and First Responders.  In working through his own stressors, Rob found a passion for woodworking and uses some of his creations to raise funds for a multitude of non-profit organizations that directly impact the lives of our nation’s heroes.

Rod Rifredi

Rod Rifredi

RED HELP - Training Director, Board Member

After serving in the United Sates Marine Corps Rod Rifredi embarked on a career as a firefighter where he achieved the rank of Captain. Rod then moved to law enforcement where he served in several positions until his retirement from the Davis Police Department in 2018 at the rank of Sergeant after a total of 34 years of public safety service. For over 25 years Rod has been involved in training and has spent over 10 years traveling across the nation teaching officer safety courses. Rod has served on several California POST committees targeted towards officer’s safety through better driving policies and training.

Robyn Mikel

Robyn Mikel

RED HELP - Marketing Director, Board Member

Robyn Mikel is the widow of Firefighter Eric Mikel, a 14-year veteran with the Alameda County Fire Department who took his life on June 24th, 2019, just one month short of their 20-year wedding anniversary. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Robyn received her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Cal State East Bay. Her career began in Advertising, but she ultimately found her passion in the technology industry where she spent nearly 20 years with assignments ranging from training to project management. Through the experience of losing her daughter who was stillborn at 36 weeks she really began the process of understanding her own mental health struggles and the toll it takes on the entire family. The feeling of powerlessness in helping her husband overcome depression and the job-related PTSD that ultimately led to his suicide has compelled her to focus her life toward seeking opportunities to advocate for better services and support for first responders and their families. She is currently a stay-at-home mom caring for and being the best role-model she can be for their young son, Donovan.